How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that functions as hormone and neurotransmitter that leads people into social actions that benefit their group and society rather than being solely selfish. It positively affects behaviors such as trust, empathy and generosity and can reduce levels of social anxiety.
There have been many studies of the effects of oxytocin, just a few of which are referenced below. Overall, it caused initial excitement as a possible treatment, but then discovered negative effects have tempered this.
Oxytocin release is stimulated in women by birth and lactation in mothers (Fuchs et al. 1984), and causes mothers to show more caring behavior (Petersen and Prange 1979). It also appears in fathers who are caring.
Ditzen et al (2009) found that oxytocin reduced the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in arguing couples.
In contrast to other research which has indicated only positive effects, De Dreu et al (2010) discovered that oxytocin not only makes a person nicer to their friends, but it also makes them more aggressive towards outsiders as they act to defend the group. Other research has shown that oxytocin increases negative emotions such as envy and gloating.
Overall, Oxytocin (along with vasopressin) can be considered at the hormone/neurotransmitter or social attachment, and that a lack of these may impact conditions, such as autism, where there are difficulties social bonding (Insel 1997).
Ditzen B, Schaer M, Gabriel B, Bodenmann G, Ehlert U, and Heinrichs M. (2009). Intranasal Oxytocin Increases Positive Communication and Reduces Cortisol Levels During Couple Conflict. Biological Psychiatry, 65, 9, 725-7.
Fuchs, A.R., Fuchs, F., Husslein, P., and Soloff, M.S. (1984). Oxytocin receptors in the human uterus during pregnancy and parturition. American Journal of Obstetric Gynecology. 150, 734â€“741
Insel, T.R. (1997). A neurobiological basis of social attachment. American Journal Psychiatry. 154, 726â€“735
Pedersen, C.A. and Prange, A.J. Jr. (1979). Induction of maternal behavior in virgin rats after intracerebroventricular administration of oxytocin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science U.S.A. 76, 6661â€“6665